Succulent Karoo: The most abundant biome of succulents in the world

During the month of December I had the good fortune of making a trip with my family from Namibia all the way down to South Africa’s Western Cape. We had the opportunity to visit really remote places, living without the normal comforts like running water or electricity and to reconnect with nature.

Semi desert eco region of the Nama Karoo Image Copyright SoonafternoonSucculent-Karoo-Image-Copyright-Soonafternoon-07

In the course of this trip we travelled through the Namaqua National Park, a unique landscape where–from a distance–not much appear to be happening. Running down the Western coast against the Atlantic ocean, the area looks like plain sandy plains. As far as the eye can see it appears to be covered in low growing–rather dull looking–bushes.  

Namaqua National Park Image Copyright Soonafternoon
Weird and wonderful flora of the Succulent Karoo Image Copyright SoonafternoonSucculent Karoo Image Copyright Soonafternoon 05

But once you are inside the landscape and you start to pay attention to the details, the scenery reveals to you its treasures. You notice that the dark blackish bush, hides within it hues of purple. And indeed upon even closer inspection, these explode into a myriad of other colours still; like puffy red-fingers waiving at you from the earth.

Weird and wonderful plants of the Namaqua National Park Image Copyright Soonafternoon
Wonderful flora of the Namaqua National Park Image Copyright SoonafternoonThe Namaqua National Park Image Copyright Soonafternoon

This magical landscape is called the Succulent Karoo. It is magical first and foremost, because it is such a sneaky chameleon. Hiding behind a mirage of grey and brown, you can find around 3000 succulents–a third of all the species in the world! And when you are lucky enough to visit during the spring, the landscape transforms itself into a tapestry of colour with flowers abound. 

Strange flora of the the Namaqua National Park Image Copyright Soonafternoon
The beautiful Namaqua National Park Image Copyright SoonafternoonInteresting plants

40% of the plants here are endemic and found nowhere else on the planet. The plants have adapted to this area, a semidesert ecoregion, by storing water in their roots and swollen leaves. One species, called the Mesembryanthemum crystallinum–also known as crystal ice plants–look like they’re made up of tiny bubbles of water! Others surprise you with bright papery petals or puffs of teal.

Succulent Karoo Image Copyright Soonafternoon
Funny plants of the semidesert ecoregion of the Namaqua National Park Image Copyright SoonafternoonWeird and wonderful flora of the Succulent Karoo Image Copyright Soonafternoon

Careful not to impose on the delicate ecosystem, I kept to the footpaths provided. In my imagination though, I could wander deep into the thicket, curious about all the wonders I have yet to see.   

Beautiful succulents of the Succulent Karoo Image Copyright Soonafternoon

Text & Photography ©  Barbara Cilliers

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